Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Jesus experience Extreme Temptations for You


The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him
(Mark 1:12-13, NLT).

Jesus’ baptism marked the beginning of his public ministry. John the Baptist had been the talk of Israel, and hundreds were going out to see him, hear him preach, and be baptized as a sign of repentance from sin. John told the crowd, “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am – so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals” (Mark 1:7). When Jesus arrived at the Jordan River where John was baptizing, John exclaimed, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus requested baptism as well. Although reticent at first, John baptized him, and when Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descended, and a voice from heaven declared, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy” (Mark 1:11).

From a purely human standpoint, that would have been an ego moment: dramatic entrance, great crowds, heavenly declaration. Often a high point like that is followed by a low, as the person at the peak begins to think too highly of him- or herself and tumbles.

But there was no ego trip for Jesus. Immediately following this dramatic event, empowered by the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the crowds behind and took the offensive against the enemy, Satan, by going into the lonely and desolate wilderness to fight temptation. The fact that Jesus was “compelled” to go there doesn’t mean he was reluctant but rather that Jesus was determined to go, in agreement with the Sprit. (Notice that Satan is real and personal, not an idea or force. A fallen angel, Satan, the devil, is the powerful enemy of God and his people. He should be taken seriously. But at the same time, we should know Jesus is more powerful and no match for Satan. Amen!).

Think about this: The writer of Hebrews explains that Jesus “faced all of the same testing we do, yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus would have been vulnerable – suddenly alone – away from his followers and the crowd, in a hostile environment and hungry. When Jesus became a living, breathing human being, he submitted himself fully to human limitations. He would have felt elation at his baptism, sensing the closeness of his Father and excitement about beginning his public ministry. Then he would have felt the chill of the wind as he sat on the hard ground. He would have experienced gnawing hunger and thirst. The temptation were real.

From Jesus’ experience we learn that God may lead us into dangerous and intense spiritual battles. We won’t always feel good; in fact, we will have times of deprivation, loneliness, and hostility. It also teaches us that Jesus did, in fact, experience extreme temptations; he knows what we’re facing, and he knows how we feel. Therefore, Jesus is able to deliver us from evil and temptations. Isn’t our God is understanding, personal and awesome? Praise God.

Jesus, the God-man, was willing to suffer temptation in order to understand you
and to show you the way to stand against it. Jesus is able. God is good.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

Reference:
Life Application Study Bible Devotional: Daily Wisdom from the Life of Jesus (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2011)

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Christians and Environmental Issues (8 Practical Ways that Will Make a Different)


Why Christians must act on environmental issues? Dr Rowan Williams said, “Living in a way that honors rather than threatens the planet is living out what it means to be made in the image of God. … What we face today is nothing less than a choice about how genuinely human we want to be.” “Our responsibility is to cultivate and care for the earth in accordance with God’s command (Gen 2:15),” write Pope Francis, “we are called not only to respect the natural environment, but also to show respect for, and solidarity with, all the members of our human family. These two dimensions are closely related.” Patriarch Bartholomew I asserted, “To hurt the Earth is a sin.” Rev. Nicky Gumbel, Pioneer of the Alpha course also said, “We should care for God’s creation – not out of fear about what is going to happen, but out of love… so Christians should be at the forefront of the environmental cause and movement because in our care for creation we reflect our love of the Creator.”

Environmental and ecological problems can make us wonder ‘what on earth can I do?’ But living in a way that respects what God has made is part of our joyful discipleship and, by inspiring others to join us, we can begin to change the world. These are just 8 simple habits to implement in your everyday life (which I also practice) which will make a difference. There is nothing new here but if you follow at least some of these tips, you can be proud of yourself participating in the protection of the environment.

1)     Donate. You have tons of clothes or things you want to get rid of. If they are still usable, give them to someone who needs them. You may also choose to give them to associations. These associations may sell them and collect a little money. Not only will you protect the environment, but you will also contribute to a good cause.

2)     Turn off your devices. When you do not use a house device, turn it off. For example, if you don't watch TV, turn it off. Turn off the light when you leave a room (even if you intend to return.) It's an easy habit to take up which will help you save a lot of money.

3)     If possible, walk or cycle. Driving is one of the biggest causes of pollution. If you want to use your car, ask yourself the following question: do I really need my car? Walk or use your bike if the journey is a short one.

4)     Recycle. Simply separate rubbish or waste into four separate categories: plastic, paper, aluminum and unrecyclable stuffs and send it (or sell) to recycle center. We have this in our FES office.

5)     Bring your own thermos or water bottle.

6)     Think before you buy. Ask yourself this question, do I really need it? If the answer is yes, ask again, do I really need it?

7)     Borrow instead of buying.

8)     Bring handkerchief or small towel instead of using tissue paper.

You can make a different.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Monday, April 27, 2015

Kaleb anak Yefune: Memiliki Hati yang Tidak Berbelah Bahagi

Old Man | Photographer Agency (taken from: www.ph-agency.com)
Kaleb anak Yefune, orang Kenas itu, berkata kepada Yosua, ‘Tuan tahu akan firman TUHAN kepada Musa, hamba Allah, tentang kita berdua semasa kita di Kades-Barnea… Sejak itu TUHAN telah menjaga saya supaya saya tetap hidup, menurut janji-Nya. Lihatlah! Sekarang saya sudah berumur lapan puluh lima tahun dan masih sekuat dahulu, ketika Musa mengutus saya. Saya masih kuat untuk berperang atau melakukan apa-apa saja…
(Yosua 14:6, 10-11,
BM).

Kaleb ialah seorang pengintip dan salah seorang daripada pemimpin suku-suku Israel. Mungkin ada yang kurang berminat tentang kisah seorang pengintip tetapi percayalah, banyak yang kita boleh belajar daripada keperibadian Kaleb. Wow, saya berharap apabila saya berumur 85 tahun kelak saya masih bersemangat dan berpegang teguh kepada iman saya dan masih komited melihat janji-janji TUHAN digenapi seperti Kaleb. Apabila kebanyakkan orang mahu kehidupan yang lebih senang menjelang hari tua mereka, Kaleb masih lagi tidak sabar-sabar untuk berkhidmat. Dia digambarkan di dalam Alkitab sebagai seorang yang mengikut TUHAN dengan sepenuh hatinya. Kita boleh membaca tentang pengelibatan dia bersama Yosua dalam buku Bilangan bab 13 dan 14.

Kaleb ialah seorang yang beriman dengan sepenuh hati dia, tidak berbelah bahagi dan tidak setengah-setengah. Dia tidak hanya mengikut TUHAN apabila keadaan semuanya baik-baik sahaja atau apabila ia tidak melibatkan apa-apa kos dan berputus asa apabila keadaan semakin sukar. Tidak! Kaleb tetap terus berdiri teguh dan berani menghadapi cabaran walauapapun dugaan dan cabaran yang datang.

Kamu kenal orang yang selalu melihat masalah dan menjangka banyak perkara buruk yang akan berlaku apabila cuba untuk melakukan sesuatu? Kamu kenal orang yang selalu memberi banyak alasan kenapa ia tidak boleh terjadi? Kamu kenal orang yang sudah mengalah walaupun belum lagi melakukan apa-apa? Itu bukan Kaleb! Kaleb seorang yang teguh hati. Dia bukan saja percaya, malah, dia menggalakkan orang lain: “Kita cukup kuat!” (Bilangan 13:30). Ini bukan sekadar berfikiran positif atau sikap optimis yang membabi buta. Kaleb mempunyai sikap dan iman yang percaya kepada firman TUHAN. Dia melihat sesuatu keadaaan dan krisis dengan kaca mata TUHAN. Dia melihat apa yang akan terjadi bila TUHAN beserta kita. Dia mengambil serius terhadap perintah dan janji TUHAN.

Hati Kaleb tidak berbelah bahagi. Dia beriman dengan sepenuh hatinya. Kaleb melihat rencana TUHAN dan keinginan hatinya sama saja kerana dia telah mengabdikan dirinya kepada TUHAN. Dia percaya. Dia beriman. Dia memegang kepada janji-janji-Nya. TUHAN milik dia, dia milik TUHAN. TUHAN, berikan kami hati yang tidak berbelah bahagi seperti Kaleb dan sentiasa melayani-Mu sampai hari tua kami. Amen.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.


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Jesus bring the Father Great Joy


One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, ‘You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.’” (Luke 3: 21-22, NLT)

Can you hear that powerful voice “from heaven” saying, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy”? Can you imagine? Imagine. God’s words convey a dual expression of divine love and joy. Jesus was God’s “dearly loved Son.” We only need to chew on this concept for a few seconds to begin to understand both the depth of love and the depth of sacrifice involved here. (Btw, here, at Jesus’ baptism, God unmistakably certified Jesus as his Son and the Holy Spirit also appeared. The Trinity made an appearance! For those who wonder how God can be ‘three in one,’ Jesus’ baptism captures the Trinity in action, expressing one mind and purpose yet in three distinct ways).

A hymn from the early church describes the momentous significance of Jesus coming from heaven to the dusty roads of Judea: “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

The sacrifice was immerse, and it was undertaken with purpose and conviction. We don’t know at what point in life Jesus fully understood his mission to die for the sins of all humanity. However, we do know that it was clear to him during his three years of traveling and teaching, for three separate times he told his disciples he was going to die and rise again. The events that unfolded did not take Jesus by surprise. He came to do what God had planned from ages past.

Jesus brought his Father great joy because he willingly took upon himself human form in order to die for sinful humanity – for us. The Father looked upon his human Son, fresh from the waters of baptism, and spoke from heaven of his love and joy for all to hear. “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” How joyful God was!

Pray and praise God for the extraordinary gift of his Son.
Ask him to help you pursue the godly, worshipful life that makes him rejoice over you.
In Christ, Jesus live in you, you also can bring joy to God. God, is a Joyful God.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Jesus Choose (no Force) to Lay Down His Life

Just a picture, okay. 
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:17-18).

Nobody takes Jesus’ life from him. He’s the King of the universe. He had all the frailty of man, but if he so wished, he could have called legions of angels to his command. He could have hopped down off that cross, as the onlookers taunted him to do. When Satan tempted him in the desert to show his power in a way that might save him from the will of his Father, Jesus could have done those things. At any point, he could have said, “You know what? Forget this,” and taken up a sword and laid waste to all who opposed him. He had that power.

But he choose to lay down his life. Nobody took it from him.

This is important today because of a division and hurtful argument that some boneheaded Christians have made. It has to do with that perennial question reignited in the wake of The Passion film: “Who killed Jesus?” Was it the Jews or the Romans?

Focusing on the Jewish role in the political collusion to kill Jesus has led to an insidious anti-Semitism in some corners of the church. The Gospel don’t seem to help, really, because they depict Jews as thirsty for Jesus’ blood and the Romans officials acting as if their hands are tied. This is historically accurate because, when confronted with no evidence that Jesus really meant to physically overthrow the government, Herod and Pilate saw no cause to execute him, even though the Jewish religious leaders and their followers continued to beg for his murder. But the Jews had no authority to execute anyone, so in the end, the Roman government is guilty of actually murdering Jesus.  

Regardless of the apparent players in the drama, we have to remind ourselves that nobody took Jesus’ life. He gave it of his own free will. Nobody took anything from him that he wasn’t willing to give. So focusing on who killed Jesus is the wrong question and winds up with beside-the-point answers. The answer to the question of who killed Jesus is found in three truths about his death: (1) Jesus himself said that he gave his life willingly; (2) Jesus forgave his executioners while he was on the cross; (3) the guilt Jesus took to the cross belongs to everyone.

The great power of the betrayal and execution of Jesus is that he went into it with his eyes wide open, with his heart ready to endure the agony submissively, willingly – like a lamb led to the slaughter. Do you remember what he said in the garden of Gethsemane on the eve of his crucifixion? “Father… not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). That’s Jesus saying, “I know what lies ahead, and I’m up for it.”

Jared C. Wilson
Author of Your Jesus is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Saviour
(Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids, 2009) page 200-202
Get this free book by CLICKING HERE.

So you see, Jesus was willing to die for you and me.
No other God would do such thing like that.
Jesus love you.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Muslim Perspective: "The Earth is a Mosque"


The earth is a mosque, and everything in it is sacred
. I learned this basic tenet of Islam from my father. He was raised in New York City in the borough of Queens, spent summers in Virginia, and always loved and respected the natural world. He took it upon himself to share this appreciation with his children. I spent my early childhood in the New York boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. My brother and I used to think the entire world was a sea of concrete buildings. My father upended that reality the day he took us to Bear Mountain. Just north of New York City, Bear Mountain is known as a hiker’s paradise. On that trip, we were Black Muslim city kids hiking in “the country” for the first time. What I recall from that day was moss growing on rocks, mushrooms on rotting wood, and drinking from my first juice box – the kind you poke a straw into.

When it was time for the afternoon prayer, my father stopped to pray. My brother and I asked him where he was going to pray. He pointed to the ground, to a small area he had brushed free of twigs and leaves. Until the day, prayer for us had always been something done at home or in the mosque.

Our mosque, Masjid At-Taqwa, was an oasis of Islam in the heart of the struggling Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood (better known as Bed-Stuy) or Brooklyn. The imam of Masjid At-Taqwa, the respected Siraj Wahaj, later became the first Muslim to give the opening prayer in a session of Congress. My father was one of the first twenty-five brothers involved in building Masjid At-Taqwa. To us, the mosque meant proud black families creating community and praying together.

On Bear Mountain, as we prepared to kneel down in prayer, my father related a hadith, a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Wherever you may be at the time of prayer, you may pray, for it (the Earth) is all a mosque.” At that instant, and I could not have been more than five or six years old, I understood for the first time: the Earth is a mosque; a mosque is sacred; therefore, the Earth is sacred. That moment of prayer on the mountain, thanks to the hadith my father relayed, transformed the way that I would see the world forever.

As an adult, my contemplation of the notion that the Earth is a mosque led to my discovery of the core message of this book – that Islam, the world’s second-largest religion, provides a helpful lens to prompt action among Muslims and anyone else concerned about saving the Earth. This lens encompasses a variety of principles – understanding the Oneness of God and His creation (tawhid); seeing signs of God everywhere (ayat); being a steward of the Earth (khalifah); honouring the covenant, or trust, we have with God (amana) to be protectors of the planet; moving toward justice (adl); and living in balance with nature (mizan). Each of these principles points to the same well-kept secret: that Islam teaches a deep love of the planet, because loving the planet means loving ourselves and loving our Creator. That is to say, Islam teaches that we are all One. “The Earth is the mosque” is another way of saying that we are all part of the same, wonderful fabric of creation.

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin
A policy advisor and writer
Quote from GreenDeen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet
(Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc, 2010) page 1-3.

I disagree with the core teachings, beliefs and theology of Islam. But I highly support and recommend the teaching of Islam (as the author portrait in this book) about environmentalism and protecting our planet Earth. This book is good.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Jesus' Public Identification with the Sinners


Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. ‘I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,’ he said, ‘so why are you coming to me?’ But Jesus said, ‘It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.’ So John agreed to baptize him” (Matthew 3:13-15, NLT).

John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth had a common message: “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2 and 4:17). For months before Jesus began his ministry, John had been confronting the crowds with their need to turn to God for forgiveness. When the Messiah arrived – that is Jesus – John soon stepped aside, for his role is complete. John knew that he was to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming. Therefore he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30).

We don’t know how many encounters John and Jesus had, but Jesus’ baptism stands out in the Gospel story. Imagine, John devoted his life to preparing the way for Jesus, so when Jesus went to the Jordan River, he clearly didn’t expect Jesus ever ask to be baptized along with the crowds.  He knew Jesus had no reason to repent. Jesus never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15). Jesus once challenged the Pharisees to accuse him, “Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin?” (John 8:46) – they can't. Jesus, the God-Man, never sinned and no need to be baptise. So, John replied is understandable. Instead, John suggested that Jesus baptize him. (Mind you, there is no magical about water baptism. It just a symbol. It simply an outward expression and public witnessing of being inwardly baptize by the Spirit of God when we accept Jesus as our Saviour and acknowledge His lordship over our lives.)

Jesus’ answer gives us a glimpse into his acceptance of God’s will over the course of his life. The phrase “we must carry out all that God requires” is similar to Jesus’ later words in the garden of Gethsemane, “I want your will to be done, not mine” (Luke 22:42). By insisting on baptism, Jesus was making public his identification with sinners. He went to the Cross as the ultimate act of substitution, but he began his ministry with this act of obedience that beautifully pictured his eventual purpose. Long before the nails were driven into his flesh, Jesus was taking steps that would make his sacrifice perfect and complete.

Think about this: Both the King (Jesus) and his herald (John the Baptist) had the same message: repent. The herald invited people to demonstrate their inner response with an outward action in baptism. The King submitted to the outward action as a way to confirm that repentance makes a difference in God’s eyes. This has always been the first step in responding to God – we must accept our hopeless condition apart from God’s mercy and respond in simple obedience. The King welcomes the humble and needy who come to him.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

Reference:
Life Application Study Bible Devotional: Daily Wisdom from the Life of Jesus (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2011)


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John the Baptist must Become Less Important


This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, ‘Who are you?’ He came right out and said, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ ‘Well then, who are you?’ they asked. ‘Are you Elijah?’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘Are you the Prophet we are expecting?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?’ John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the LORD’s coming!’’” (John 1:19-23, NLT).

All four Gospels highlight the unique role of John the Baptist in the life of Jesus. In Luke 1:36, we know that John and Jesus are distant cousin. John was “a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!’” (Matthew 3:3). John’s appearance in the Gospels was a way that reminds us of the Old Testament prophets whose ministry involved unorthodox outfits and unusual diets: “John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4). Small wonder that the religious establishment sent a delegation to John to inquire about his identity. Would he claim to be a prophet? John made it clear he wasn’t a prophet; he was the fulfilment of a prophecy!

John the Baptist knew his role and lived it. He was a charismatic figure whose life and message drew crowds, and he could have cashed in on his notoriety. Instead John used a striking word picture from Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness.” To make sure people didn’t miss the point, he added, “I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal” (John 1:27). John was not seduced by his own stardom, influence and popularity. He knew who the “star” really was and gladly pointed everyone toward Jesus Christ, the Saviour. I love it when John said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30).

Think about this: “It’s all about me” is the attitude of many in our world today. The bottom line for the Christian, however, is that it isn’t all about me – it’s all about Jesus. Every act, every word, every motive, every plan, every desire should revolve around the centre, Jesus Himself. Only then is life in balance. Only then can we point people to the Saviour. Yes, in our life, Jesus must become greater and greater, and we must become less and less. It’s all about Jesus.

In your act, word, motive, plan, desire and thinking, is it all about Jesus?
How can you make Jesus the central focus of your life today?
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.



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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jesus' Identity and Our Understanding of Him


Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem… Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:41-43, 46-47, NLT).

At twelve years of age, Jesus would have been considered an adult, so Mary and Joseph weren’t alarmed at first when he wasn’t with them in the large caravan of people traveling home. When Jesus didn’t show up when they made camp in the evening, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three long days (3 days!), of searching and worrying, they found Jesus in the Temple, discussing theology with the religious teachers. For your information, during Jewish Passover festival, the greatest rabbis or teachers in Israel would assemble to teach and to discuss great truths. Certainly the coming Messiah would have been a discussion topic. Jesus would have been eager to listen and to ask probing questions. The depth of Jesus’ wisdom at his young age “amazed” these teachers.

 Meanwhile, Mary and Joseph had looked for Jesus for three days, so her question to Jesus was understandable: “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere” (Luke 2:48). Jesus simply replied, “But why did you need to search? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (2:49). Jesus knew his identity. Mary and Joseph, however, didn’t realize that Jesus was making a distinction between his earthly father (Joseph) and his heavenly Father (God the Father). Young Jesus wasn’t denied Joseph as his lawful father but as an adult he have the freedom to choose and he know that he “must be in [his] Father’s house.” Jesus knew that he is the Son of God. Mary and Joseph also knew Jesus was God’s Son, but they didn’t understand what his mission would involve. Jesus’ earthly parents had to learn and observe complex outworking of Jesus’ special identity and calling, even as he lived in their family.

Think about this: Mary didn’t completely understand her son, but she remembered these events and sought to find their meaning. When Jesus answered them, Mary and Joseph “didn’t understand what he meant. Then [Jesus] returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:50-51). Eventually Mary’ son, Jesus, would become her Saviour and she would understand. Mary, like us, need to grow (continuously) in our understanding of Jesus and His identity. Daily we must ask God to give us minds that seeks after His truth with eagerness and pleasure. Never stop searching for the truth. Always curious about the things of God. Read, study and obey God’s Word over and over again. Feed your spirit everyday with Jesus, the Bread from Heaven. Spiritually speaking, drink and continue to be filled with Jesus, the Living Water. Be satisfied in Him.

As you have grown, in what ways has your understanding of Jesus changed?
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

Reference:
Life Application Study Bible Devotional: Daily Wisdom from the Life of Jesus (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2011)


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Monday, April 20, 2015

King Herod's Plot to Kill Jesus (Unfair Battle... God always Win!)


[King] Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A cry was heard in Ramah – weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead’” (Matthew 2:16-18, NLT).

Evil is real. The Bible explains that ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin entered the world, people have been born sinners; thus, doing what is wrong come naturally. We tend to look out for ourselves and our own interests first. Taken to extreme, self-centeredness leads to every imaginable evil act. History documents the terrible acts of the evil king Herod, especially concerning potential rivals to the throne. In his later years, Herod had three of his sons killed as well as his wife and many actual or suspected conspirators. Herod didn’t hesitate to spill blood to secure his power. Obsessed with himself, he felt threatened by a helpless baby who might one day become king. After all, the wise men said, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

Bethlehem was only a few miles from Jerusalem. Herod expected the wise men to return to him after finding the child they sought. When he learned they had gone home without reporting the location of the child, Herod took out his anger on innocent children. [When Emperor Augustus heard that among the boys under two years old whom Herod had ordered killed, his own son was also killed, he said: “It is better to be Herod's pig, than his son!”].

We may question how God could permit such terrible atrocities, even as he allowed Jesus to escape. But Matthew, the gospel writer, a Jew, knew all too well that the history of God’s people was littered with evil acts against them. The Messiah’s arrival caused Satan to unleash an arsenal of evil, in this instance using Herod. Satan, throughout history, have tried (and still trying) to eliminate God’s people – the Jews – from the face of the earth. Satan know that it is from the Jews that the Messiah would come. In the past, through Pharaoh of Egypt, Satan tried systematically to murder every Jewish male baby but Moses survived; through Haman, Persian Empire officer, Satan tried to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews but God called Queen Esther and Mordechai to rescued their people; through King Saul, Satan tried to kill David because he know that the Messiah would come from the line of David but he failed; through wicked Queen Athaliah, the daughter of the notorious King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, Satan plotted the killing of her own grandchildren and anyone that belong to the line of David to secure the throne but baby Joash, the only remaining direct link to the kingly Davidic line, was rescued and hidden in the Temple; through Adolf Hitler, Stalin, etc. Satan failed all the time! God win! Killing Jesus? Yeah, right... Jesus rose from the grave!

Think about this: Today, Satan is working overtime to thwart God’s plan. But don’t worry! Jesus told his disciples and us to pray “rescue us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13) and thus, we need to pray for God’s continued protection and guidance. In Christ, God have a beautiful plan for each one of us. Like how God continue to protect His people, the Jews, (even sometime they behave very badly) God still keep His promise because He is faithful. Like how God accomplished His plan through His Son, Jesus Christ, who would be the King of the Jews, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, God will always win over Satan’s plot and Herod’s brutal action. Like all of these and more, you can trust in Him. Why? Because in the end, God will always, ALWAYS WIN!

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
                                           
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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Look at the Star. It's a Bird, It's a Plane, No! It's the King!


Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.’ King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem” (Matthew 2:1-3, NLT). The wise men seeking “the newborn king of the Jews,” which led to Herod’s jealous rage. After all, Herod should be worship because he was the “king”, and reigned over the Jews at that time… so it seem…

The wise men seem to have specialized in astronomy, but they may have interpreted dreams and had other special knowledge and abilities. They referred to Jesus’ “star.” The Book of Numbers mentions a “star” (24:17) coming out of Jacob (refers to a location of God’s people), but how would the wise men have known that the star represented the Messiah? Perhaps they were descendants of Jews who had remained in Babylon after the Exile and thus grew up knowing the Old Testament prophecies. Or they may have studied ancient manuscripts. Or perhaps God had given them a special message. In any case, they travelled to Jerusalem, the capital city, expecting to find a young king there. Herod had no idea what they were talking about but felt threatened by this talk of a “king.” So he assembled the Jewish religious leaders and asked them.

[Herod] called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, ‘Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?’ ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they said, ‘for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel’” (Matthew 2:4-6). Interestingly, the Jewish leaders told Herod and the wise men that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2), but they didn’t go themselves. These visitors – the wise men – from faraway lands recognized Jesus as the Messiah when most of God’s chosen people in Israel did not.

The wise men travelled thousands of miles searching for the One who had been born King of the Jews. “The star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!” (Matthew 2:9-10). And when they found Jesus, the King of the Jews, the Messiah, God’s Son, they joyfully worshiped him and presented gifts fit for a king: “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (2:11).

Think about this: Sometime knowing ‘about’ God doesn’t lead us to seeking the real God. King Herod was a very religious man, but when he found out that there was a “King” to be born, he was threatened, furious and rage to jealousy and planned to kill baby Jesus. The priests and teachers of religious leaders knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem as the Scriptures said and yet they didn’t go seeking Him for themselves. We can be religious, talks and talks, words by words, evangelized and teaching people, but it doesn’t matter to God if we didn’t seeking God’s King for ourselves. God always give us “star” that will lead us to Jesus. Like the wise men, our focus should be on the “star” and do whatever it takes to find the Truth. And when you find the Truth (I’m sure you will if you follow God’s lead), the “star” become insignificant to you because now you have found God’s King, the Messiah, God’s Son – Jesus Christ – and your heart will be filled with water spring of joy! The immediate reaction will be telling, you can’t help it but to burst in worship!

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, NLT)
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.


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The Commitment of Revolutionary


I recently finished reading an informative, challenging and inspiring book by George Barna entitled “Revolution” (2005, 2012). Here I want to quote at length from his book (page 27-28):

“One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from studying the words of Jesus is that he loved fruit. Not the kind you pick off trees or vines, but the kind that’s evident in the life of a person whom he has changed. Jesus made very clear that the proof of people’s faith is not in the information they know or the religious gatherings they attend, but in the way they integrate what they know and believe into their everyday practices.

The hallmarks of the Church (not refers to building but the aggregation of believers) that Jesus died for are clear, based on Scripture: your profession of faith in Christ must be supported by a lifestyle that provides irrefutable evidence of your complete devotion to Jesus. The Lord encountered numerous people during his earthly tenure who could quote Scripture or pretend that they knew and loved him. But his reaction to them was always the same: “Show me the fruit.”

Revolutionaries are Christ-followers who refuse to make excuses for their failings; instead, they address and overcome those inadequacies. Jesus did not die on the cross to fill church auditoriums, to enable magnificent church campuses to be funded, or to motivate people to implement innovative programs. He died because he loves you and me, he wants an everlasting relationship with us, and he expects that connection to be all-consuming that we become wholly transformed – Jesus clones, if you will indulge the expression.

Does something get in the way of your living like Jesus? Then figure out how to eliminate that obstruction. Does life get so complicated that it’s difficult for you to juggle everything and remain Christlike? Then simplify your life. Are you unable to find words that describe how you believe God has called you to know, love, and serve Him? Then develop new ways to communicate to others how God is ministering to you and through you.

Is society dragging you in the opposite direction from where Jesus calls you? Then acknowledge that your life is part of a spiritual war between God and Satan, declare your side, and get on with it. Admit that you are better off “fighting the good fight” and suffering on earth for the cause of Christ than winning the world but losing your soul for eternity.

God used to the fact that your life is lived in the context of warfare. Every breath you take is an act of war. To survive and thrive in the midst of the spiritual battle in which you live, seek a faith context and experience that will enhance your capacity to be Christlike. This mission demands single-minded commitment and a disregard for the criticisms of those who lack the same dedication to the cause of Christ. You answer to only one Commander in Chief, and only you will give an explanation for your choices. Do whatever you have to do to prove that you fear God, you love Him, and you serve Him – yes, that you live only for Him.

This is the commitment of a Revolutionary.”

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Jesus, the Long-Awaited Messiah (God's Ultimate Promise: Himself)


At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel… He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!’” (Luke 2:25, 28-32, NLT).

As Mary and Joseph entered the Temple, an old man, a stranger, took Jesus in his arms and began to praise God. Luke, the writer of this gospel, doesn’t tell us much about Simeon except that he was “righteous and devout” and that he was “eagerly waiting for” the arrival of God’s promised Messiah, the one foretold by the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Messiah would deliver God’s people and establish God’s Kingdom. All Jews hoped for the coming of their Deliverer, but God had told Simeon that he would see the Messiah in his lifetime. It must be a surprised for him. Simeon, nonetheless, held on to this promise, so he had his eyes wide open, anticipating his Messiah’s arrival.

Simeon many not have known what age the Messiah would be at their meeting. So he may have been surprised, amazed and thrilled upon learning that this infant was God’s Son. Just imagine how many babies Simeon had seen during this time, but he kept looking and trusting. And when Simeon saw Jesus, he knew this was the One. (I remember reading how John the Baptist responded when he saw Jesus. He said, "Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) I wonder how do they know who Jesus really is? God’s Holy Spirit might prompt their hearts and said, ‘Look, Jesus is here.’ Maybe this was why when I first read the Bible and my heart gladdens by God’s Word, I knew that this Jesus is the One.)

After meeting Simeon, Mary and Joseph also encountered Anna. “Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple” (Luke 2:36). This elderly Jewish woman spent most of her days worshipping and praying in the Temple. Seeing Jesus, Anna burst into praise, confirming what Simeon had said about the baby. “She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). As we can certainly understand, “Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him” (2:33) both by Simeon and Anna.

Think about this: We probably won’t find Simeon or Anna in any list of major Bible characters. Yet more than two millennia after this incident in the Temple, we know about them and their faith in God’s promises. God’s Word contains many promises, including God’s continual presence, his sovereignty over world events, his Holy Spirit, his daily care, and his promise of eternal life. During times of conflict, meager resources, loneliness, and suffering, God can seem distant. That’s when we need to cling to the truth that God loves us so much that he sent Jesus Christ, which is, Himself.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

Reference: Life Application Study Bible Devotional: Daily Wisdom from the Life of Jesus (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2011)


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Jesus' Birth Announcement: Poor Timing, Insignificant Audience, Odd Location and Over-the-Top Emcee


That night [when Jesus was born] there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guiding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger
(Luke 2:8-12,
NLT)

Generally, the importance of an announcement is judged by the audience to which it is made. Today, significant proclamations call for a televised press conference with a written press release. (If God ask me first, I would ‘advise’ Him, ehemmm… to proclaimed good news during sunny day at the busy marketplace, choose rather noble and honourable audiences such as the Pharisees and Sadducees, send written news to every town in Israel before the actual event start and at least let Jesus born in a luxury 5-stars hotel. And spotlight from heaven… But… God doesn’t ask for my ambitious advice… He don’t need one!). See, God broke every rule of effective media management at the birth of his Son: He chose poor timing (the middle of the night), an insignificant audience (shepherds), an odd location (hillside pasture), and an over-the-top spokes-angel. Those inexplicable contrasts give Jesus’ birth announcement a distinct ring of truth.

Happily, the angel’s announcement included a note of “Don’t be afraid!” that applies far beyond the immediate circumstance and flows from the fact that the Saviour’s birth will “bring great joy to all people” – including us! As if unable to restrain themselves over the good news, the angelic choir breaks out with a song of confirmation and the hopeful word that the impact of the news – “The Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord… has been born today” – will be “glory to God” and “peace” to people as a result of God’s favour. Furthermore, the shepherds, untroubled by their low social status, set their feet in motion. And having received the truth they had been told by acting on it themselves, they then told others and they joyfully thanked God.

Shepherds were at the bottom of their societal structure. They knew their unworthiness as recipients of the news and its meaning. They simply accepted the fact that they now had a Saviour, the Lord. We, therefore, must place ourselves in their sandals when we realize we are equally unworthy, and yet God has offered to us the same good news of a Saviour, Jesus Christ.

After seeing [baby Jesus], the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child” (Luke 2:17). Think about this: The gospel writer, Luke, tells us that those who heard the news second-hand from the shepherds “were amazed” (Luke 2:18). This response may or may not have been belief that lead to faith. It doesn’t matter. The crucial lesson for us is not the effect but in the effort. What I mean is, it is not our responsible to convert people (effect), only God can and able to do that. But it is our joyful-responsibility to tell others about Christ (effort). Share the good news!

How often do you simply and joyfully let others know
what you found when you acted on the news about Christ?
See again the shepherds respond when they heard and seen Jesus first-hand.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Jesus' Birth went Unnoticed by the World (Is this How the Saviour Arrived?)


[Joseph] took with him Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them” (Luke 2:5-7, NLT).

Those who have lived with or been a woman in the final stages of pregnancy will shake their heads in wonder over Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem if they ever studied the map (Obviously I never experienced either one, so I just use my imaginations). Neither walking nor riding a donkey for several days could be described as anything but uncomfortable. Apparently the Romans had no provision in the taxation laws for filing a late return – Joseph and Mary were required to report, extenuating circumstances notwithstanding. “All [people throughout the Roman Empire] returned to their own ancestral towns to register for census” (Luke 2:3). A must.

Countless telling of the Christmas story have compressed the time between the couple’s journey and Jesus’ arrival. We usually picture the weary soon-to-be-parents wandering into Bethlehem in the evening, with Mary already feeling contractions, and the “No Vacancy” signs posted in the inn. Actually, Jesus was born in a little town, perhaps only large enough to have one inn. Necessity forced the couple to take shelter in some kind of alternative housing that had a manger. Since the “manger” indicates a place where animals were housed, it is likely that Jesus was born in a cave. This ironically means that Jesus spent both his arrival night (his birth) and his departure night (his burial and resurrection) in a cave.

Regardless the exact location, Jesus’ birth went largely unnoticed by the world. The scant details point to the simplicity and commonness of his birth. God, taking on flesh, entered life in the same messy, painful, and wonder-filled way that every human does. The King of kings didn’t get royal treatment at birth. Right from the start, only a few really understood and welcomed the Saviour.

Think about this: Familiarity with the story sometimes causes us to relive the events of Jesus’ birth with mild indifference. But what would be our fate if the Saviour had never been born? The wonder doesn’t come from trying to imagine all the ways God might have arranged to rescue us; the wonder comes in realizing that this was, in fact, the way God fulfilled his promises. I am amazed by God and how Jesus the Saviour of the world coming to us.

One response is necessary: Worship!
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

Reference:
Life Application Study Bible Devotional: Daily Wisdom from the Life of Jesus (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2011)

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